Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review: The hottest Galaxy Note ever

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We review phones with an obsessive focus on the experience that really matters to you. We don’t care about specifications, we will tell you what you will really feel while using the phone. And needless to say, we maintain total integrity and truthfulness in our reviews.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is one of the most anticipated smartphone of the 3rd quarter of 2013. It obviously has all of the functions that Samsung introduced in the Galaxy Note 2 but they are much more mature and advanced now.

Costing INR 49900 in the local market it is no poor man’s phone. But if you can shell out 50k then this is one of the best phones that your money can get.

samsung galaxy note 3 N9005

Well, it wouldn’t disappoint you in any case unless you’re dreaming of owning a genie to do almost anything for you. Note III is made to rule the phablet world and takes the legacy of the Galaxy Note series to the next level.

The Galaxy Note 3 competes with the likes of Nokia Lumia 1020, Sony Xperia Z Ultra, HTC Butterfly S, LG G2 and Apple iPhone 5s.

Its main features include 4K (ultra HD) video recording and all of those Air and motion gestures that Samsung included with the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 2. Nothing is literally new except the Air Command which launches a radial window when you hover the new S-pen over the display and press its button.

  • Big gorgeous display
  • Great camera
  • Cool features
  • Uncompromising performance

  • Heating issues

User Experience

 

Design

samsung galaxy note 3 N9005

From the front the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 looks just like its other Galaxy siblings but from the back it doesn’t look like a cheap plastic phone anymore. Samsung has put some thought process (after being criticized a lot) into making the next Galaxy Note look somewhat premium and I must say, it does look like a premium phone.

The Galaxy Note 3 is undoubtedly the best phablet in the market as of now and we believe that it will maintain this position at least for the next few months.

The back-panel has a faux leather finish but it is actually made out of same plastic material as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and is very flexible. The chrome plated brushed metal finish bezel adds to the premium look and feel of the phone.

You might think that the Note 3 might be bigger in size than the older Galaxy Note 2 but it is not. The only thing that troubles me when I think of buying it is the size. It is difficult to handle and use with just one hand.

Single handed operation is not possible at all.

The faux leather back-panel adds more grip but most of the times you’ll have to use both of your hands.

If you are already using the Galaxy Note 2 then the size wouldn’t be an issue for you. In fact, you’ll actually like the additional grip provided by the leather finish back-panel.

These Galaxy Note phones don’t easily fit in jeans pockets.

 The front camera and other sensors are located towards the right side of the earpiece grill while the IR LED is located on the top side of the bezel.

The bezel at the bottom flanks the loudspeaker which makes it difficult to get occluded in everyday use.

 The audio also wouldn’t get muffled when the phone is placed on any surface.

 If you are replacing your current smartphone which is much smaller in size than the Galaxy Note 3 then you will take at least a few days to get used to holding such a big phone.

The capacitive buttons at the bottom of the display are very responsive.

User Interface

The android 4.3 JB based Samsung Galaxy Note 3 runs on top of TouchWiz UI which adds tons of functionalities to the phone. If you hold the back key for a while then you’ll see the sidebar if you have enabled Multi-Windows.

The Easy mode is one of personal favourites as it makes Galaxy smartphones unique. With the easy mode enabled elderly people can also use the latest in technology without going through those dense layers of icons and menus.

The animations and transition effects are very smooth with the exception of a minor lag when the album art gets flipped over in the music player.

 

Display

The 5.7 inch Super AMOLED full HD display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and has a pixel density of 386 ppi. Being an AMOLED display the colors are somewhat saturated but there is an option in the Settings to adjust them. The colors don’t get distorted when you watch a video on the display even at an extreme angle. The image sharpness might not be as good as what you get in the HTC One or Sony Xperia Z1 but it is more than satisfactory. The sunlight legibility is very good which makes it easy to discern the contents of the display very easily even in the Sun.

Typing

It is not at all possible to operate this touch-screen with one hand on the stock interface. But if you enable one-handed operation under the settings then you can easily punch in the numbers on the dial pad using only one hand. The single-handed operation also adapts the virtual qwerty keypad to be used with one hand only. However, I like the default portrait mode more than these customizations. It is optimum for people for average hand sizes. The landscape mode has its virtual keypad spread across 5.7 inch of display real estate which is more than enough for most of the users.

You can also have a floating keypad which comes in very handy when using multi-window. Other input options include continuous input and voice input The inbuilt graphical smileys look very similar to what we see in whatsapp. With support for message scheduling, the Galaxy Note 3 makes life much easier and sends a message to any recipient at the scheduled time.

You do not have to stay up till 12 am to wish someone happy birthday- thanks to message scheduling.

Browsing

The web browsing experience on the Note 3 is unmatched. You can open loads of browser tabs and still don’t see the performance getting sluggish and sluggish. The pinch to zoom and double tap to zoom are instantaneous and work like a charm.

The browser Window manager layout is very innovative and probably the best that I’ve seen in a smartphone.

All in all, browsing on this phone is leagues ahead than what we are used to seeing in regular smartphones. The full HD display produces razor sharp text and images which can make netizens fall in love with it.

Extra Features

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is more famous for its special features than its display size and specifications.

These extra features make it more user friendly and an instant hit in the smartphone world. Its main features are:

  • Air Command– It can be brought up by hovering and then pressing the button on your S-pen. It has 5 options:
    • Action Memo- Recognizes your handwritten text and lets you convert it into a phonebook contact, email, URL etc
    • Scrapbook-Lets you save almost anything on your device after you scribble on it.s It can range from images to videos to webpages.
    • S Finder- Integrated search tool letting you search your phone and the internet.
    • Pen Window- Shows a window having shortcuts to certain apps (non-customizable) when you draw a window on the display using the S-pen.
    •  Screen Write- Scribble anything on the display and save it as notes.
  • Air gesture– It consists of 4 other functions which are:
    • Quick Glance
    • Air Jump
    • Air Browse
    • Air call-accept
  • Air View

 

Camera: Feature packed

samsung galaxy note 3 N9005 The camera UI is similar to what we saw in the Galaxy S4 and is very user friendly. The photo settings has aspect ratio options and for obvious reasons we preferred 4:3 (4128×3096 pixels) aspect ratio over the 16:9.

Camera Interface

 The display being AMOLED in type shows images as somewhat over-saturated but on the computer screen they possess colors similar to what human eyes can perceive.    The HDR mode works fine but as per my observation is takes more time to capture the shot than in Galaxy Note 2. We couldn’t test the color reproduction of the HDR shot as the day on which we conducted our camera tests was cloudy. Downscaled Camera Samples at 90% Quality Click the Panorama to enlarge

samsung galaxy note 3 N9005

 Zoom Test

The front 2MP snapper can take photos with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The captured images have a good amount of details and can be used as your profile pic. However, image processing could use some improvement in the department of color reproduction. The macro shots look great but it is not a child’s play to get that perfect shot. The camera doesn’t focus well on the input every time and that’s why we had to take a few shots before we got what we wanted.   The full HD videos taken by the 13MP camera are color rich (slightly saturated) and have good contrast. The touch to focus works fine and is without delays. The videos preserve details till 2x zoom. If you try to go beyond 2x then you’ll start losing details and the video also becomes shaky.

Full HD Video Sample

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005 (US version) which we tested can also record 4K videos (3840×2160 pixels) at a frame rate of 30 fps but I believe that it wouldn’t count for a significant difference on a standard TV display.

Ultra HD 4K Sample Video

The International version of Galaxy Note 3 doesn’t support 4K i.e. Ultra-HD video recording.

The camera performs very well in low-light scenarios as well. The focussing works fine and good amount of details are preserved in the captured shots. However, it will be useless to use the digital zoom in low-light scenarios as the image quality deteriorates very soon with the increase in zoom.

Low Light samples

 LED Flash NOT Fired
LED Flash Fired

It is needless to mention that the camera in the Galaxy Note 3 is very rich in functions. Here is the list of various photo modes: Auto, night, sports, surround shot, panorama, eraser, rich tone (HDR), golf, animated photo, drama, sound & shot, best face, best photo and beauty face.

Here are some camera benchmarks which might come in handy:

Camera start-up time ~0.63s
Zero shutter lag Yes

Multi-media: Just as you would expect

Multimedia is an important facet of this large device, many people buy large phones with expectations of enjoying a good movie experience on the go. Does the note 3 live up? Let’s find out! The volume of the phone is adequate. Maybe the burden of being a flagship makes us be a little more critical about the sound, but it could have been louder. On the quality front the phone performs well. Various sounds and different frequencies are played quite harmoniously. And the quality is further aided by the speaker placement which ensures no occlusion takes place.

Samsung has always been generous on the software features front and this continues with the audio video players on this phone too. All the standard array of features like shuffle and repeat is easily accessible. We were expecting the Galaxy Note 3 to play 4k video clips seamlessly but it disappointed us. Our test 4k clip (AVC codec having 25Mbps bitrate) failed to play on it.   Special features:  A nifty feature with the video player is play speed adjustment. You can speed up the video by 2X. Music auto off will come in handy if you want to sleep while listening to music and not wake up with a dead phone caused by battery drain.  Voice control is something that sounds fun in theory but we found it difficult to use seamlessly in real life. Might be useful if your hands are occupied though.

 

Performance: It’s the God of everything

The note series of phones have always excelled in the performance department. They literally set the benchmark every time a new phone was launched. So does the Note III live up to the expectations? It does brilliantly! It’s like those annoying sincere students who top the class. Every task that gets thrown at it will be done, quickly. And nothing is too much to handle for the phone. The Note 3 runs all applications with butter smooth responses. You will fail to find instances of lags anywhere. Samsung has put in all the power that you can ever demand.

Photo effects app Test

photo effects

Credits: Samsung

Let’s take a look at how Photo Effects performs on this flagship device. Photo Effects is a free white label photo editing software by RadiumOne. Put in simple language, this will probably power the photo editing functions in a lot of your applications.

The app launched almost instantaneously on the Note 3. It has a very basic interface. Basically this app lets you embellish photos. You can choose any photo from the gallery or can capture one using the either of the phone cameras.

The photos were easy to modify on the giant display of the Note 3.

Tilting and resizing the effects was a breeze.

The app also features loads of social sharing options like twitter, Instagram, Picasa etc. The photos were processed in a jiffy and it was only after processing that we were able to see that they were downscaled to 1024×576 pixels.

You can get it for FREE from:

App Store, Google Play

If you like this app and want to find out more about it then hit the below link to read our full in-depth review.

Photo Effects App: Full Review

Benchmarks Scores

Stacking up against Note 2: To be clear, there are no problems with the note 3’s performance. But the funny thing is that as a user the difference between this and the predecessor Note 2 is not really discernable. The only difference is in a few of the transitions and software optimizations. But those are bound to percolate down into the Note 2 sooner or later. The Achilles heel: The performance is flawless, almost. One problem with the phone is heating. The area below the camera keeps getting hot even during some routine operations. Presumably that is the processor heating up but with so much horsepower under the hood, this should not happen.

Apps & GamesSamsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005

The Galaxy Note 3 comes with a lot of pre-installed apps like Scapbook, S Planner, Samsung hub, Samsung apps, Samsung Tec Tiles, Paper camera, PicsArt, Jumping Poli, M-Catalog, TestDraw, CameraAce, Coach’s Eye etc. The S-voice is catching up Apple’s Siri and can be used to do a few tasks like searching for something on the internet, playing a particular music track etc. We found it to be a great time pass too.  

Notifications

LED indicator settings_Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005The phone is loud enough for all occasions. And the strong vibration aids to the notifications experience. The bottom line is that you will not be missing any call or other alerts with this phone. The customizable LED is a nice addition allowing you to be discreetly notified in case of an email or any other preset alert. The LED on the front can be configured to show notifications while charging, low battery, Missed calls, messages, app notifications and voice recording.

The glowing blue LED won’t let you record audio in covert mode.

Battery: Could have been biggersamsung galaxy note 3 N9005

The 3200 mAh Li-Ion battery will easily make the phone last for at least a day on regular usage. To increase the battery backup even more you can tweak the settings in the Power Saving Mode.   Battery Tests

Test Backup (mins)
WiFi browsing 334

Connectivity

samsung galaxy note 3 N9005

What it has:

  1. 2G, 3G and 4G (with LTE-A)
  2. Bluetooth v4.0
  3. Wi-Fi with dual channel. Supports Wi-Fi direct & Hotspot.
  4. GPS with support for A-GPS and GLONASS, HDMI, NFC and IR LED
  5. microUSB v3.0 (MHL 2.0), USB Host.

What it misses:

  1. FM Radio

Final Verdict

It’s not worth 50k INR
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is definitely a good smartphone if you are upgrading from the original Galaxy Note or Galaxy SII but if you’re already using Note 2 then you might not want to upgrade to it.
  • An avid photographer
  • A gaming addict
  • A netizen
  • A movie buff
  • Don’t like big phones




  You ought to know this- Why we don’t trust specifications?

Specifications: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005

Hardware

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005

Chipset Qualcomm MSM8974
Processor (CPU) 2.27 GHz quad-core Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330 @450 MHz
RAM 3 GB (available- 2.38GB, free= 2.38-.95GB)
Display Type Super AMOLED, 16M colors
Size & Resolution 5.7 inch, 1080×1920 pixels, 386.47 ppi
Primary Camera 13MP, AF, LED Flash Video- 3840×2160 @30fps, full HD @60fps Stills- 4128 x 2322 pixels
Secondary Camera 2MPStills- 1920×1080 pixels Video- 1080p
Android OS v4.3 JB
Battery Li-Ion 3200mAh
Memory Internal- 32/64 GB; up to 64 GB via microSD card
Connectivity- NFC Yes
USB MicroUSB v3.0 (MHL 2.0), USB Host
EDGE Yes
HSPA+ HSDPA up to 42 Mbps
WLAN 802.11 /a/b/g/n/ac, dual band, WiFi hotspot
Bluetooth v4.0
GPS Yes with A-GPS and GLONASS
Dimensions 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm
Weight 168 g
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity, compass, gyro, temperature, barometer, humidity
Dual SIM NO
Colors Black, White and Pink
Online Price INR 49900
SAR Value

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4 Comments

  • Tom says:

    Given the 5.7″ screen, can/could one touch type with two hands in landscape? (Granted that it wouldn’t be with fingers poised directly above each key, like on a real keyboard, or a larger tablet.)

    • Anand Karwa says:

      Well, it’s a subjective matter. People with small hands will struggle to type in the landscape mode whereas the ones with relatively bigger hands will love it.
      However, the typing in portrait mode would be a breeze for people will all hand sizes.

      • Tom says:

        I think that you misunderstood. I’m wondering about two-hand touch typing, not thumbing or two-finger typing.

        • Anand Karwa says:

          We tried using the touch keypad as if it were a physical keypad on samsung galaxy grand but it was awful to type. We will check on the Note 3 and update you asap.

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